Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Chandler Jones on rise for Patriots' D
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The number that stands out most on Chandler Jones' stat line is 10.5, the sacks he's totaled through 11 games this season. That puts him on pace to potentially join Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett (18.5 in 1984, 16.5 in 1985) as the only Patriots players to record at least 15 sacks in a season.
That's usually the way it works for players at Jones' defensive end position. Sacks sell.
Chandler Jones has become a versatile playmaker in New England's defense.
But there's a lot more to the story of Jones' growth from 2012 promising first-round draft choice to 2013 November AFC Defensive Player of the Month, and we'd make a case that "3" is a more meaningful number on Jones' football resume this year than the 10.5.
Mainly, it's because he's playing three different positions at a high level, which is a significnat expansion from the more simplified role he filled as a rookie in 2012.
Put him in a three-point stance as the team's right defensive end in the 4-3 scheme and he's effective.
Stand him up in a two-point stance as a right outside linebacker in the 3-4 alignment, and ask him to drop into coverage at times, and he can be competitive in that role too.
And in long-yardage situations, when looking for a little more inside push, reduce him inside over the guard and watch him go to work, his 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame an unusual matchup for many guards that proves problematic.
"I think Chandler has played much more consistently this year than last year. Although I thought he did a lot of good things last year too, his game has come up and we've asked him to do more. He's taken on more responsibilities, played in different positions but I think he's having a solid season," coach Bill Belichick said.
Wednesday, in some ways, turned out to be a "Chandler Jones Media Day" at Gillette Stadium because he became the first Patriot since defensive back Eugene Wilson in 2004 to earn AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors.
In the team's locker room, Jones' locker is the first one located by the exit to the team's weight room and at one point a media scrum blocked the path of anyone looking to pass through.
"It's a great accolade. But if it's up to me, I would like to be AFC defense of the month," he said, turning discussion of the award from an individual focus to a team-wide scope. "I couldn't do it without those guys, the 10 guys that are out there on the field with me. Our secondary, our linebackers, they do a great job of freeing me up [and] holding guys up. I'm getting a lot of coverage sacks."
That might be true, but there have been other times when Jones has created pressure off the edge to force a quick throw and incompletion and received no credit for a sack. He's played 98.2 percent of the defensive snaps as well, so his durability has matched his impressive production.
While a player like Jones will almost always be measured first by sack total, opposing coaches are taking note of other things he's doing as well.
"He can rush the passer, we all know that, but the thing that has impressed me is that he is playing the run extremely well," said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, whose team is preparing to face the Patriots on Sunday.
That might be the compliment that Jones appreciates most after saying in the offseason that one of his goals was to improve his strength, particularly in his upper body. He's now a stronger player, which has been evidenced by the way he has effectively disengaged at times after his first move was thwarted, or simply with how he sets a better edge in the running game.
Add it all up and he's a player on the rise. Wednesday's Player of the Month honor was a decisive reminder of that.